In keeping with my recent Steven Soderbergh frenzy, I couldn't resist seeing The Informant! Apparently, many others could not resist seeing it either as it climbed to the second slot of the past weekend's highest grossing movies. Was it the slew of Matt Damon posters à la The 40 Year Old Virgin that were plastered in highly specific markets across the country? Or was it the lapse of time in a Matt Damon/Steven Soderbergh pairing that left audiences craving another? It can't be because of a public fascination with the film's subject, Mark Whitacre. Because, like Erin Brokovich before him (filmically speaking), the common man was basically unaware of Whitacre until Steven Soderbergh decided to put him on the public radar. The movie poster that launched millions of dollars in box office revenue

And that is something of the Soderbergh modus operandi: Taking something that has gone minimally noticed and attributing it with bombast and celebrity casts. The Informant! is very standard in this respect. Unlike the Ocean's series, however, Soderbergh relies solely on the star power of Matt Damon to carry the film, which is its most fatal mistake. Damon infuses the sleazy role of Mark Whitacre with a certain amount of charm, to be sure, but he doesn't have nearly the same amount of charisma as fellow Soderbergh favorites Brad Pitt or George Clooney.

Fond of narration, Mark Whitacre made hundreds of tapes outlining the blatant price fixing formally carried out at ADM

Matt Damon may have the conviction of a leading man in that he was willing to gain about forty pounds and wear a hairpiece to elevate the character of Mark Whitacre to a somewhat caricature-esque level, but that does not help him where he needs it most: Acting. The screenplay for The Informant!, adapted by Scott Z. Burns, is verbose, to say the least. A bulk of the talking is done through voiceover, which helps, because, among other things, Matt Damon has a pleasant voice. But his vocalist stylings are not enough to buttress the weight of the script, and that's a shame as Burns' writing is deserving of someone better equipped to carry off its dry, often dark, humor.

Hahahaha, I'm bipolar!

No stranger to the Matt Damon machine either, Scott Z. Burns wrote the script for The Bourne Ultimatum, a far cry from the dark comedy genre that The Informant! falls under. But what can you say? Once in Soderbergh's good graces, it seems you're stuck there. And praise (insert god here) Hollywood politics for once because Burns' script is Oscar-worthy (but what the fuck does that mean anymore?). Adapting a novel of this magnitude is an almost herculean task and, in this case, Burns deserves more accolades than Soderbergh and Damon combined for making it viewable as a film.

AuthorSmoking Barrel